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Sam Harris and the Call of the Ninja

Wednesday June 17, 2020

Some links and then a bit of a rant, and then some proposals.

I was listening to a recent Tim Ferriss podcast with Sam Harris. I like Tim Ferriss—he’s to me a good example of a maybe-ISFP who’s done well in life. He listens, he supports, he shares knowledge and he’s easy on the ears.

Anyway I am not as familiar with Sam Harris. I look forward to learning more about him. But was a bit shocked to hear him repeat this line of thought with which I’ve become very familiar:

It makes me think that the solution for climate change has to be surreptitious at this point. There is no political solution.

OK. You see? That’s what shattered ideals look like, right there. I feel that. This is SUPER important for people like us to learn to recognize. Because it’s also a values-entangled, emotional process that Sam’s giving a nope. It’s not just a commentary on this broken politics-thing.

And this other part—this was a bit hard to hear: “Surreptitious.”

That “surreptitious” word is admittedly becoming a huge cringe for me lately. Why? Because I keep hearing it from people who are continually finding yet another reason to be annoyed with politics. (TBH it’s difficult not to confuse this with “people who suck at politics,” whether due to lack of exposure or interest)

Some of those people read this blog, and they HATE politics. They hate things like:

  • Shallow social messages, which to them are BS compared to pure, thoroughbred, grass-fed, down home economic market force.
  • Knowing that elected and appointed inauthentic and dishonest individuals are at this very moment taking advantage of messaging to make a fast buck
  • Not being personally consulted on how things should work
  • A lack of deference to their own covert goodness-contract with the universe, which could be clearly seen in their acts, with the proper existential microscopy gear. And which we shall just assume everybody’s on board with. We all agree to be as good as I think we should be, and no worse.

But also, it’s my experience that these same people are kind of afraid of:

  • Detailed information that may prove their positions incorrect, or change their minds
  • Good people who invite them to get involved, before they’re personally ready
  • Making time to sit down and listen to people with tons of experience, and who are optimistic, and who may also prove them wrong

So, I know some INTJs who are in that circle. Not fun to talk about, but there we are. [Edit: I have to emphasize “we” here a bit, because while I’m pretty open to new ways of thinking about stuff, I think there are pathways that lead to the conditions above, and sometimes it’s just important to know that you can break through, should you find yourself in that spot.]

I know others who are definitely good when it comes to politics. Personally I have to remind myself—this stuff is not automatic by a long shot.

And I mean, I hate to stereotype here, and this is a TINY bit tongue in cheek, but we have GOT TO START PROVING ENTPs WRONG.

We’re not just armchair critics who can shoot anything down but utterly fail at carrying through with the creativity. We can do so much better than slinking off like ninjas, fighting like mercenaries working on covert contracts.

We can be:

  • Optimistic about designing and developing our own engagement processes, even if we harbor some doubts initially
  • Upbeat about our capacity to learn to think and speak diplomatically, even if we feel an urge to go for the jugular
  • Encouraging to those who can do and are doing these things when we can’t.
  • Appropriately emotional, regrouping and healing around our personal needs during periods of defeat.
  • Cleverly tactical, carrying that energy forward as a lesson learned and a new approach.
  • Systems-conscious, meta-reflective, and aiming to map out every part of whatever elephant our blind world is attempting to understand.

Otherwise this “non-political solution” tends to pull us right out of the fight, a fight we can win. (Recalling that beginners may think of winning in really jacked up, black-and-white terms, but the experienced who pushed through that have often discovered real-life winning conditions)

Sam continues:

We actually simply have to design products and sources of energy that people find more desirable, like Tesla cars being the perfect example. At a certain point, people just need to want electric cars more than they want gasoline cars for reasons that have nothing to do with climate, just because they’re better cars and we have to innovate on dozens of fronts in that way and just do whatever we need to do to mitigate the problem, despite the fact that we can’t persuade anyone that it’s even a problem.

A lot of this is good, and probably works to some degree—I think most of us will get that at an intuitive level.

It’s also very tech-focused. That’s a psychology. I’m guessing Sam’s psychology is extremely info-referential, organizational, and performance-oriented. Which is great. But by being a “type” of psychology, it can also be exclusive and difficult to approach for outsiders.

And it’s also extremely perceptive, in the “just sit back and watch” sort of not-so-great way. It almost leads one to a conclusion like:

“So…there’s already great Tesla cars on the market, and more are headed that way. So we’re good? Those of us who don’t design cars and stuff…do we need to do anything at all? Maybe we just sit and watch the economy work its magic.”

Such a thing could lead to drastic delays. As big-picture perceivers, some of us may even find that we lean toward herd-sacrifice in the “sometimes sucks but necessary” way, but man, consciously enabling it? Delays like that are pretty jacked up if they’re not strictly necessary. If we can do some experimentation and accelerate the game, we may seriously save the herd.

Sure, we’re all a bunch of closet secret agents, spies, ninjas, Special Ghost Warriors, or whatever. Here we are in the dark corners, guiding things via market forces!

By the way, have you ever been so ninja that you camped an entire game away?

I’ve camped entire games away. Man, I have definitely camped like a ninja, but maybe more like a ninja camper.

I’m working on my own ways of pushing ahead, bringing those ideals to a better outcome for humanity. I hope you will, too.

Let us train in secret, and hone our ninja skills for resilience, and exposure to new and even foreign platforms.

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